In regard to the Alford plea there has been recognized a number of element that must be present to warrant its acceptance by the court. Most importantly though, there must be enough evidence against the defendant to warrant a conviction. Such a plea must also be “both voluntary and intelligent. ” (Pohlman 75) In North Carolina v Alford, Alford appealed the sentence and his conviction was reversed by claims that he entered the plea while under distress and that it was involuntary.
The court in this case maintained that it was involuntary. This ruling was however overturned and his prior sentence of 30 years maintained. One condition that the court set was that in Alford plea, there had to be a partial substantiation. A partial substantiation as has been observed “was included by the court top protect defendants not against overly aggressive prosecutors but, rather against overly compliant defenders. ” (Bruce 120) Alford plea and indeed the whole concept of plea bargaining has been a controversial issue.
While the court maintains that plea bargaining is a core element of the criminal justice system, others have maintained that it is meant to trample upon the rights of the accused by denying them their constitutional rights to a jury trial. The United States constitution mandates the state and allocates immense resources for the state to investigate and prove its case in front of a judge while also granting the defendant his own rights to maintain silence and leave his fate to the jury.
Plea bargaining is seen as being largely coercive and using a series of threats and rewards. Alford plea has largely been criticized by legal analysts as likely to be detrimental to the defendant out of the attorney’s complicity. Prosecutors rather than the defendants stand to gain more. Defendants only gain is the reduced sentence while prosecutors on the other hand can use the plea in future sentencing. Publicly, Alford plea has been criticized for eroding publics’ confidence in the criminal system as far as fairness and the accuracy of its decision is concerned.
Innocent defendants may be punished out of their fears of harsher judgments while the guilty face a lighter sentence than the crime they have committed really deserves. The issue pf plea bargaining remains an area of huge interest to most Americans, it is controversial with some people decrying it as suppressive to justice and fairness. Alford plea dates back to the 1970s when Alford, a murder charge defendant chose to plea guilty to a second degree murder charge so as to escape a death penalty.
He was consequently sentenced to thirty years, the appeal court quashed this sentence upon the insistence that he was under distress when he made the plea. However the Supreme Court maintained the sentence and noted that a defendant had a right to plea guilty while at the same time defending his innocence in a court of law with an intention of minimizing his chances of a harsher sentence. Works Cited Jay M. Feinman. Law 101: Everything You Need to Know about the American Legal System. Oxford University Press US, 2006; 324 Pamala L. Griset.
Determinate Sentencing: The Promise and the Reality of Retributive Justice. SUNY Press, 1991; 130 George Fisher. Plea Bargaining’s Triumph: A History of Plea Bargaining in America. Stanford University Press, 2004; 319 H. L. Pohlman. Constitutional Debate in Action: Criminal Justice. Rowman & Littlefield, 2005; 75 Bruce Jackson. Law and Disorder: Criminal Justice in America. University of Illinois Press, 1984; 120 James R. Acker, David C. Brody. Criminal Procedure: A Contemporary Perspective. Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2004; 485